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World Central Kitchen, Feeding South Florida Mobilize in Florida: Here's How You Can Help

WCK teams are on the ground in Port Charlotte.
WCK teams are on the ground in Port Charlotte. Photo courtesy of WCK
On Wednesday, Hurricane Ian made land contact in southwest Florida as a Category 4 monster storm that decimated Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, and many other parts of southwest Florida.

Thursday morning news videos showed bridges torn apart, houses submerged in water, and the seaside tourist restaurants and souvenir shacks of Fort Myers beach totaled. First responders are currently assessing damage and attempting search and rescue missions.

And, as always, humanitarian organizations like World Central Kitchen, the Red Cross, Feeding South Florida, and Food Rescue U.S. are gearing up to help feed the tens of thousands of people who are left without basics like food, electricity, and clean water just hours from the creature comforts of Miami.

Fiona Donovan, World Central Kitchen's (WCK) chief relief operations manager, says the WCK team is currently in Tampa, getting its field kitchens and food trucks ready to move to a Fort Myers location. "Just to know an hour south of us is completely destroyed is hard to wrap your brain around," she says.

She says that right now, the priority is on scouting and assessing the places with the most needs. "Where are the seniors, people in mobile homes, folks who are without power and fresh water? It all starts with the need. That's what we're scaling to meet." The WCK team will concentrate on the cities between Tampa and Naples, with a concentrated effort in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Sarasota.
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Making sandwiches at WCK
Photo courtesy of WCK
Donovan is also relying on local restaurant and food truck owners to help, along with local volunteers. "We will be organizing a coordinated effort to mobilize food trucks. We also need local volunteers to help bring food to shelters that need support and communities where the power is out, people to help clean up, and so on and so forth," she says. Volunteers do everything from making sandwiches to cooking giant portions of paella to delivering food.

For people in Miami who want to help, Donovan says the best ways are to support the operation through volunteer work and donations. "We do expect this to be a large-scale operation. This Category 4 hurricane is one of the worst in Florida's history." 

For people interested in volunteering, there is a signup page on WCK's website. There are opportunities for chefs, delivery drivers, and general helpers.  Donations also can be made through the website. Food truck owners can leave a message at 202-844-6330. A food truck coordinator will return the call.

Donovan says that while WCK is getting ready to help people in Florida, teams are still in Ukraine, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, and other places. Each place is different, and the people have different needs. In Sanibel Island, for instance, WCK teams are trying to deliver food to people via helicopter and marine vessels since the causeway from the mainland has been destroyed.  "Every context is so different and presents different challenges. But no matter where we are, the connection is through food."

Feeding South Florida is deploying team members to southwest Florida. The Harry Chapin Food Bank, the Southwest region's largest hunger-relief network in the region, has no power Feeding South Florida is the closest food bank and has been asked to step up and help. It is sending a generator over to the Chapin Food Bank.

Feeding South Florida's operations team has loaded up a 36-foot trailer with water, ready-to-eat meals, and snacks to deliver the supplies to families in the affected cities and towns. The first truck of supplies was delivered to Island Coast High School yesterday afternoon. So far, about 4,000 meals were delivered, with an additional 3,000 being prepared per day. To donate to Feeding South Florida, visit feedingsouthflorida.org.

Food Rescue U.S. Southwest Florida is also helping to get food, as needed. The organization recovers edible food only, and doesn't accept monetary donations. If you are a store or supplier in southwest Florida that has edible food to pick up or want to volunteer your time, visit foodrescue.us.

Finally, the American Red Cross of Southwest Florida is on the ground helping with relief efforts. If you would like to donate or host a fundraiser, visit redcross.org. If you live in southwest Florida and need assistance, call the American Red Cross hotline at 1-800-RED-CROSS.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss

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